Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Law Goes Into Effect May 17, 2016

Gov. Tom Wolf signed The Medical Marijuana Act on April 17, 2016, with an effective date thirty (30) days from the date of signing (May 17, 2016).

Under the Act

The new law requires prescribing physicians be trained on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana and be registered with the Commonwealth before they can issue prescriptions. Patients must apply for and receive an identification card prior to purchasing medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary.  Patients under the age of 18 must have a designated caregiver (either a parent or legal guardian, an individual designated by a parent or legal guardian, or an appropriate individual approved by the Commonwealth should no parent of guardian be appropriate or available).  Caregivers must also apply for and receive a valid identification card.

Medical marijuana may only be dispensed in the form of pills, oils, topical gels or creams, tinctures, liquids, or a form that can be administered by a vaporizer or nebulizer. Currently, the Act does not allow patients to receive the drug in dry leaf or plant form.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (“PDE”) has 18 months from the effective date (i.e., November 17, 2017) to pass regulations regarding student and employee possession and/or use of medical marijuana on school property. PDE is not required to publish regulations regarding the administration of medical marijuana by a school nurse or other authorized employee to a student.

School Board Policies

In the interim period between the effective date of the law and the date when PDE promulgates official regulations, school directors should review their existing board policies.

School Districts typically have policies pertaining to the administration of medication to students, both over-the-counter and prescribed. Medical marijuana should be treated no differently than any other prescription medication, subject to the same conditions and requirements as any other medication under the board policy.  Districts generally require a parent or guardian to complete an annual consent form, and also require a medication order or written authorization from the prescribing physician.

Additionally, many boards have passed “controlled substance” polices, prohibiting students from possessing or distributing controlled substances on school property or during school-sponsored activities. Districts should follow the notification and discipline requirements detailed in their respective controlled substance policies for any student possessing or distributing medical marijuana unless and until revisions are required once Department of Education regulations regarding possession have been promulgated.

Please contact one of our School Law attorneys if you any questions regarding the new Medical Marijuana Act, or if you need any assistance revising or drafting applicable board policies. Contact the school law team at education@mbm-law.net or 412.242.4400 if you have any questions regarding this matter.